Friday, October 02, 2009

Chris Horton Benched

Really? For this?

Redskins safety Chris Horton has been benched for this week's home game against the Buccaneers, Reed Doughty will start in Chris' place at the strong safety position. I have strong doubts as to whether this benching is a good idea, and it is not about Reed at all.

Reed was a 2006 sixth round selection out of Northern Colorado at free safety, a position already occupied by incumbent Sean Taylor. With the Adam Archuleta experiment going very poorly, Reed was trained up to play closer to the line and saw the bulk of his 2006 minutes at strong safety.

When the Redskins picked up strong safety LaRon Landry in the 2007 draft, Reed was again off the starter's card, after Sean's shooting death in 2007 LaRon moved to free safety and Reed was once again moved into the starting lineup at strong safety, in the second half of 2007 Reed registered two eight tackle games and one with eleven tackles.

Heading into 2008 Reed was named starter at strong safety, Chris replaced Reed last season in game two against the Saints, Reed came down with a stomach bug that was so sudden that Reed was not on the injury list and was still projected to start when the Washington Post went to press Saturday night.

So not was a desire to start rookie 249th pick Chris Horton that team officials took Reed to the hospital for treatment and when he could not be stabilized they, as rookie head coach Jim Zorn put it, shut him down and Chris was inserted into the starting lineup (op. cit.).

A New Orleans native, Chris went to De La Salle high school in New Orleans where he rang up 117 tackles, four sacks, twelve forced fumbles and seven blocked kicks in ten games as a senior, Chris grew up a Saints fan and all he did playing in front of his family and against his favorite team growing up was scoop up a fumble and pull down two interceptions, it was the first time in seven years a Redskins player had recovered a fumble and intercepted a ball in the same game, and the first three turnover game of Chris' football career.

His performance earned him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award for week two, and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.

Reed started game three against the Cardinals but by game four the starting strong safety job belonged to Chris, he went on to have a great rookie season and become one of the steals of the draft.

Reed meanwhile developed nerve problems in his back that caused numbness in his feet, on the field he was constantly behind the play and seemed to be lost at times, in mid October the team put Reed on injured reserve, ending his season, a move Reed was unhappy with, saying at the time that he could have continued to play at least through November before having to decide between therapy and surgery.

Some may note a connection between Reed's placement on injured reserve and the signing of former Sehawks tailback Shaun Alexander and wonder if the team made a hasty decision on Reed to get a former Jim Zorn player but what the hell do I know.

Going into the 2009 offseason Reed was a restricted free agent, the team did not make him the minimum tender offer and he became a free agent, all along the team expressed an interest in keeping Reed, just at closer to the veteran minimum.

So when Reed Doughty did come back with the team I presumed he was going to transition to a depth player, perhaps even be a training camp casualty.

Well he made the roster and has been a man on fire since he came back, I fully believe Reed is a better football player now than at any other point in his career, he had such a great game against the Lions that I called him out specifically, multiple times in the gamewrap. John Keim at the Washington Examiner says Reed deserves it and I trust John's eyes.

But this is not really about Reed, it is about Chris Horton and why he is being benched. Greg Blache came out and took the blame for the defense's lackluster performance, buying the players at least one more week to get it together and become the defense they and we think they can be.

Jason Reid seems to hint at Redskins Insider that if Greg Blache was going to make a change that he was limited to changes that would not weaken the defense (op. cit.), and the Reed for Chris switch may be the only one that meets that requirement.

The politics of good backups make it awkward in a good way to have two good players at the same position, so it must have been hard to decide on benching Chris.

But to blame the benching on the pass interference call at the end of the Lions game? Really? Come on guys, that was a close call and could have gone either way and what is worse, at the time it happened, coach Zorn went full on meltdown shrieking like the ponytailed bald guy at the bodega whose Village Voice you accidentally spilled coffee on in an attempt to defend Chris, see below.

So to have the defensive coordinator come out and blame the benching on a play the coach did not think was a bad play on the part of the player at the time it happened is not fair to the player and would appear to me to undermine the head coach.

Unless coach Zorn saw the play later on tape and agreed, in which case it should have been coach Zorn delivering the news and not Greg Blache or even Chris Horton himself, as he did to the Washington Post (op. cit.).

Chris was the first man in the hole and missed his tackle when tailback Stephen Jackson of the Rams took the ball 62 yards in game two, then LaRon Landry took a really bad angle so they both screwed up.

But Chris more than made up for that play in the fourth quarter of that game as he forced a Donnie Avery fumble then sealed the win at the end with a pass defense of a deep attempt to Donnie.

I would have left Chris in and looked for another way to shake up the defense, benching Carlos Rogers for example, even if just for one start, but then again Chris Horton is a Curly R favorite.

Either way, as I observed in the Lions game and Rich Tandler points out, the Redskins are playing a lot of three safety pass coverage sets so Chris will continue to get plenty of playing time.

Chris Horton attempting to deny Bryant Johnson a touchdown: AP photo from here.